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The Link Between Fast Food and Teenage Depression

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

link between fast food and depression

Story at-a-glance -

  • Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed the excretion of sodium and potassium in the urine of 84 urban, low‐income adolescents
  • Higher levels of sodium in the urine can be an indication of a diet high in sodium, such as processed foods and salty snacks
  • A low level of potassium is indicative of a diet lacking in fruits, vegetables and other healthy potassium-rich foods
  • Higher sodium and lower potassium excretion rates were associated with more frequent symptoms of depression at follow up 1.5 years later
  • It’s possible that eating foods high in sodium and low in potassium may lead to depression by negatively influencing neurotransmitters and neural function during a time that is particularly vulnerable
  • Poor diet could also influence depression by disturbing the gut microbiome, which could further influence brain function

In the U.S., an estimated 3.2 million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 suffer from depression, defined as having at least one major depressive episode in a year. This accounts for 13.3% of adolescents, who experience a period of at least two weeks with a depressed mood, loss of interest in daily activities and other symptoms, such as problems with sleep, appetite, energy, concentration or feelings of self-worth.

Depression among adolescents is on the rise, increasing by 30% in the last 10 years. Many factors may be to blame, but one that continues to fly under the radar is diet, particularly an unhealthy one based on processed foods and fast foods.


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